Joshua Wheeler

Joshua Wheeler
Born (1975-11-22)22 November 1975
Roland, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died 22 October 2015(2015-10-22) (aged 39)
Kirkuk Province, Iraq
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1995–2015
Rank Master Sergeant
Unit U.S. Army Special Operations Command

War on Terror

Awards Bronze Star (11, 4 of them for Valor)
Purple Heart

Joshua L. Wheeler (22 November 1975  22 October 2015) was a United States Army Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (aka Delta Force) Master Sergeant who was killed in Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve.[1][2] He was the first American service member killed in action as a result of enemy fire while fighting ISIL militants and at the time of his death was the first American to be killed in action in Iraq since November 2011.[3][4] Wheeler was a highly decorated Delta Force operator having earned 11 Bronze Star Medals including four with Valor Devices.[5] He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.[5][6]

Early life and education

Wheeler was born in Roland, Oklahoma. He graduated from Muldrow High School in Muldrow, Oklahoma in 1994.[3][5]


Wheeler enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1995 as an infantryman and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.[5][7] He was then stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington and assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment until 1997 when he was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.[5] Wheeler deployed three times in support of combat operations to Afghanistan and Iraq with the 75th Ranger Regiment.[4] In 2004 Wheeler was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command's Delta Force in which he was a team leader deploying 11 times to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of combat operations.[4][5]


Wheeler was killed in the predawn hours of 22 October 2015 during Operation Inherent Resolve as a result of enemy small-arms fire sustained during a raid on a ISIS prison compound 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) North of the town of Hawija in Iraq's Kirkuk province.[1][4][8] He was one of around 30 U.S. special operations soldiers who fought alongside Kurdish Counter-terrorism unit peshmerga forces. The operation secured the release of approximately 70 hostages, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, being held in the compound.[3][7][9] Wheeler was directing the Kurdish attack on the prison and joined the fighting when those who had breached the compound came under fire inside.[3][6] Reports stated that Wheeler ran toward the sound of the gunfire and that his actions along with those of one of his teammates ensured the success of the operation and protected those Kurdish fighters who had breached the compound.[3] The Kurdish Regional Government asked U.S. special operations forces to support an operation to free hostages that were being held inside the prison and were going to be executed.[9] Information had been obtained which stated the hostages faced imminent execution and it was confirmed that graves had already been prepared for the hostages outside of the compound.[10][11] The Kurdish Regional Government stated after the raid that none of the 15 Kurdish fighters who were the object of the operation were found and that none of the hostages freed were Kurdish.[3][12] Four Kurdish peshmerga soldiers were wounded during the operation.[9] Five ISIL militants were detained during the operation and approximately 20 were killed.[2][9]

Personal life

Wheeler lived in North Carolina with his four sons and wife, Ashley, who had given birth in August 2015 to his fourth son. His three older sons were from a previous marriage.[3] Wheeler was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Patriotism by the Cherokee Nation in July 2016.[13]

Awards and decorations

At the time of his death Wheeler had been awarded the following awards and decorations, except for the Purple Heart, which was awarded posthumously.

Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Infantryman Badge
Ranger tab
Senior Parachutist Badge
Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge
German Parachutist Badge in silver
Expert Badge with Rifle Component Bar
75th Ranger Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia
9 Overseas Service Bars
6 Service stripes
Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and two silver oak leaf clusters
Purple Heart
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor Device and oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal with six oak leaf clusters
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Army Achievement Medal with seven oak leaf clusters
Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award with oak leaf cluster
Army Good Conduct Medal (6 awards)
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (device(s) unknown)
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars
Iraq Campaign Medal with six campaign stars
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal with two bronze service stars
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon with bronze award numeral 3
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 2
NATO Medal for service with ISAF

See also


  1. 1 2 U.S. Department of Defense (October 23, 2015). "DoD Identifies Army Casualty". U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  2. 1 2 McGarry, Brendan (October 23, 2015). "Pentagon Identifies First KIA in Fight against Islamic State". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "U.S. Identifies American Killed in Iraq Raid as Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler". Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "DoD identifies soldier killed in commando raid in Iraq". Army Times. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, U.S. Commando Killed in ISIS Raid, Ran to Gunfight". NBC News. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Hero killed in ISIS raid Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, first U.S soldier to die in combat against Islamic State". New York Daily News. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  7. 1 2 "Who Was Joshua Wheeler? US Soldier Killed In Anti-ISIS Iraqi Hostage Rescue Mission". International Business Times. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  8. Torbati, Yeganeh (2015-10-23). "U.S. soldier killed in Iraq raid rushed into firefight: Carter". Reuters. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  9. 1 2 3 4 U.S. Department of Defense (October 22, 2015). "Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook On Hostage Rescue Mission in Iraq". U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  10. "Pentagon confirms first US combat death against ISIS". The Hill. October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  11. "Carter: ISIS hostages saved by US raid already had graves dug". The Hill. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  12. "Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler ID'd as US soldier killed in Iraqi raid". Gulf Live. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  13. November Wallace 4 months ago. "Cherokee Nation Honors Fallen Hero Joshua Wheeler". Native News Online. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
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